1 Aug 2012

SFO head sees new financial crime areas ahead

7:01 am on 1 August 2012

The outgoing head of the Serious Fraud Office is warning of more cases of financial crime emerging in new areas as its investigations into finance company fraud wind up.

Adam Feeley, who has resigned as the chief executive to run the Queenstown Lakes District Council says his office is investigating one case that could involve more than $250 million.

Mr Feeley's office has tackled the biggest cases of financial fraud in New Zealand's history.

But as those investigations wind up, he warns that doesn't mean the end of financial crime.

He says there is and will continue to be financial crime in New Zealand and there are lots of obvious potential areas.

One new area under close scrutiny is the Christchurch rebuild.

Mr Feeley says a lot of money is going in there and there's always a risk that will tempt people to get involved in financial crime there.

But he says the fact it's been thought of early undermines the risk of that happening.

Among the major cases he's overseen in his three years at the Serious Fraud Office are investigations into South Canterbury Finance head Allan Hubbard, Bridgecorp's Rod Petricevic, DataSouth's Gavin Bennett and most recently two former directors of Capital and Merchant.

Auckland Crown Solicitor Simon Moore says Mr Feeley is leaving an office that now works better with other fraud fighting agencies.

He also successfully raised the public profile of the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Moore says a lot of the work undertaken by a prosecuting agency like the SFO can't be routinely open to the public.

But he says where it was possible Adam Feeley did come out and explain decisions publicly.

"And he wasn't scared of coming out and explaining and front-footing those cases where the decision was made not to prosecute, because that's often a very much more difficult explanation to give than the decision to prosecute".

The Shareholders Association chairman John Hawkins says running the Serious Fraud Office is a thankless task but Adam Feeley fulfilled an important role.

Mr Hawkins says at times he polarised people a little, but he's moved a lot of investigations forward at pace and tried to sort out the ones that the SFO feels need to be pursued and marshalling resources into the big investigations.

Mr Feeley rejects criticism that his office has ignored the smaller cases, while pouring resources into the high profile, white collar crime cases.

He says the office is dealing with twice the case load it was three years ago and cases range from multi-million dollar frauds to relatively small, but nonetheless serious cases.

Adam Feeley will leave the Serious Fraud Office within the next three months.